Clues to deception; who is telling the truth?

In a highly-cited study from 2003, DePaulo, et al. investigated if “people behave in discernibly different ways when they are lying compared with when they are telling the truth.”  The quest for determining consistent and obvious behavioral cues for deception is longstanding.  In the virtual world we live in today, separating falsehoods from the the truth is even more important.

Through a review and analysis that looked at some 158 different behavioral cues to deception from 120 separate independent samples, these cues emerged as significant:

*Liars provide fewer details in their accounts than do truth tellers.

*Liars pressed their lips more than truth tellers.

*Lies make less sense than the truths; they are less plausible, less likely to be structured in a logical way, and more likely to convey ambivalence.

*Liars seem less involved verbally and vocally in their self-presentations than do truth tellers, and liars use fewer gestures when speaking.

*Liars sound more uncertain, evasive, unclear, and impersonal.

*Liars raise their chins more often than truth tellers.

*Liars are more nervous and tense than truth tellers and have more dilated pupils.

*Truth tellers are more likely to make spontaneous corrections to their stories, and are more likely to admit an inability to remember something.

*”Cues to deception were more pronounced when people were motivated to succeed” especially for identity reasons.  Plus, cues were stronger when lies were about transgressions.

Today, we arguably face more deception and much of that happens virtually–through social media and the Internet–where behavioral cues are harder to read.  We are often remote participants watching video or hearing audio–both of which can be manipulated.  And, opportunities for technological deception will only grow more sophisticated.

In the end, it is up to each of us to go the extra mile (to seek information) to gain understanding, reduce the effect of fear, and make our own independent decisions.

For more information about the impacts of social media and technological deception, search Science Primary Literature (database).

Questions? Please let me know (


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